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MAILBAG: Stralman Takes Your Q's on Defense, Food, Facial Hair & More!

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop /

Anton Stralman always keeps his cool.

Joining the Florida Panthers on a three-year deal during free agency this past summer, the 33-year-old veteran defenseman has already made a strong impression on his new teammates for the calming presence that he brings to both the locker room and on the ice each and every day.

"He seems like he always makes the right play with the puck," said defenseman Mike Matheson, who's often paired with Stralman on the blue line. "That part is obviously beneficial, but off the ice he's also a calming presence. When we come in after a loss, it's just back to work for him. For myself, I kind of look at that. Whether it's a win or a loss, he comes in and does the same thing… As a veteran guy, he knows how to handle the ups and downs of the season."

In the midst of his 13th NHL season, the Tibro, Sweden native has carved out a nice role for himself within Florida's lineup. In 17 games, he's notched seven assists, 19 hits and a team-leading 28 blocked shots while averaging 21:00 of ice time per game. An integral part of the team's stellar penalty kill, he also paces the club's blueliners in shorthanded minutes (44:58).

Of course, there's a lot more to a hockey player than just their numbers.

In the latest installment of the "Player Mailbag" series, we here at asked fans to submit questions for Stralman about anything and everything. From the team's play on the ice to his life away from the rink, you can find his answers to all of your questions below!

What's your favorite food? -- @th3f1am3s

Stralman: Honestly, I eat a lot of different cuisines. I like it all, to be honest with you. But if I had to pick one that's a little bit out of norm, it'd be Thai food. I'm in love with Thai food. That's what I treat myself with sometimes.

How's your family settling into South Florida? Do you have any favorite places yet? -- @LadyKirin

Stralman: We don't have any favorite spots yet, but we're settling fine. Everywhere you go it's a little bit tough to find your way around and get into the new routines of schools and other things. But we're getting there. So far, so good!

What's your favorite arena to play in on the road? -- @hpf5182

Stralman: Vegas is pretty cool. It's a great arena to play in. When I was first with Toronto, playing in Montreal was quite amazing with the rivalry and everything, so I'd still say it's got to be the Bell Centre for me.

A month or so into the season, what are some things you think the defense is doing well right now and some areas that you still think it needs to be better in? -- Tiasha A.

Stralman: I truly believe it's a work in progress. I think we've seen the good and we've seen the bad. The bad is being still hesitant and not totally strong in front of the net yet. But on the good side, we're moving pucks well once we get it, once we retrieve [the puck]. We are hard to play against. Defensively, everybody's working as a unit, but there's still room for improvement. It's only a month in. That sort of thing with new systems, it takes time.

Saw you at practice the other day, where did your goatee go!? -- Sarah H.

Stralman: I shaved it for the Halloween party. I shaved both my head and my beard to be Hannibal Lecter. I don't even have a straw on my head here [laughs]. My wife's disgusted, so I have to grow it back. It's coming back. Don't worry about it!

What's the best advice you've received in your career? -- Brad M.

Stralman: It's kind of corny, but ever since I started playing it's all been about having fun. Whether you're a kid or a pro, you're in this sport because you love it and you're having fun every day. It's not about anything else really. You've got to love the sport and love to put the effort in. I honestly think it's way too serious down in kids ages right now. It's about falling in love with the sport and building that love first.

What made you want to sign with the Panthers this summer? -- @connorander50n

Stralman: I honestly looked at this team and thought I could contribute with something here. I knew it was already a good team. I knew a lot about them, about the players. I felt like there was only a few pieces missing for this team to be successful. With the acquisition of Q [Panthers coach Joel Quenneville], and knowing that they were also going after Bob [Sergei Bobrovsky], I was excited about the chance here. I'm very happy to be here.

If you weren't a professional hockey player, what would you be doing? -- Christian T.

Stralman: I went to a medical high school, so I'm a nurse assistant. I don't think I'd work in a hospital necessarily, but I would be in the medical field somewhere. Most likely in sports and performance or something like a chiropractor. That was my idea going into that high school, that I would eventually be a chiropractor or something in that sector.

What's your favorite piece of hockey memorabilia that you own? -- Chris R.

Stralman: Honestly, I don't have any. Nothing. I don't have any milestone pucks, but I do have some jerseys obviously. Right now they're just hanging in the closet. Since I've been on a few teams it would be cool to collect them and showcase them a little bit more one of these days. My youth team does have a glass shelf where they keep some of my stuff, which is pretty cool. It would be fun to do something after my career. I've said to myself many times that I'm going to start collecting a little bit more as the career kind of starts closing in. It would be nice to collect a few items from the guys I've been battling with the last 10-15 years. That would be very cool.

If you're at a coffee shop, what's your go-to order? -- Michael P.

Stralman: A cappuccino and something sweet, probably something with chocolate.

Who is the toughest player to defend against right now in the NHL? -- Robert D.

Stralman: Right now, Connor McDavid would be the toughest guy. He's the fastest guy with the puck. If you can have that sort of speed with the puck… Nathan MacKinnon is similar… With the way he moves, his edgework is hard to defend. He never really skates in straight lines. He's always crossing over. That makes it difficult to read where he's going next. He'll be the guy that's coming at you 1-on-1 from the red line in and you go, 'Uh oh. Here we go.' He's the guy.

Thank you to everyone that submitted questions through e-mail, Twitter and Facebook! Stay tuned to social media for future mailbags featuring your favorite Panthers players.

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